What Does Earth Day Mean To You?

As a kid, it was easy for me to describe Earth Day.  It was the Earth’s birthday (which was conveniently the day after my own).  Now I’m older and a little wiser (I hope), but I have trouble describing exactly what Earth Day means to me.

In a way, I think Earth Day is the time for those of us who try to balance our daily lives with passion for the environment to stand up and take action.  It is a day to think about our world; how beautiful it is and what we need to do to protect it.  41 years ago, millions of people across the country stood up for the environment during the first Earth Day (an action that led to the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency).  Earth Day is the time to participate in festivals, environmental cleanups, tree plantings, recycling programs and community activities.

This year, the EPA celebrated Earth Day April 16-17 on the National Mall in Washington DC.  Thousands participated in our hands-on activities and thought-provoking exhibits. For example, students from the People, Prosperity and the Planet Student Design Competition for Sustainability (P3) exhibited their sustainability projects, which included (among others) an awesome green roof system, self regulating plant watering system & the use of bone char to remove arsenic from water! The Library of Congress Young Reader’s Center  co-hosted Earth Tales, where scientists, athletes and Administrator Jackson shared environmentally themed stories with kids on the mall. At Eco Art, we sent environmental messages around the world on recycled postcards using the new go-green stamp from our friends at the Postal Service.  We even made instruments out of recycled materials and had an earth symphony on the mall with Bash the Trash!

These exhibits celebrated Earth Day by portraying the different ways that we CAN make a difference.  Whether you’re starting a compost pile, switching to CFL light bulbs, pledging to recycle more or simply buying go-green stamps (which are cradle-to-cradle certified), there are countless ways to make a statement this Earth Day.

But Earth Day is so much more than an event or a day on the calendar.  It marks our commitment to protecting our environment the generations to come.

So I ask you again, what does Earth Day mean to you? How did you celebrate? Have you made the commitment to take action every day? I have!

About the author: Joshua P. Guterman is a public affairs graduate student at American University and an intern in the EPA’s Office of External Affairs and Environmental Education.